Becoming a pet owner is one of those decisions that will completely change your life. Bringing home a new dog, cat or other furry friend gives you a constant companion, a source of unconditional love and support, and a very real responsibility. If you are not up for all of the challenges that entails, you could find yourself regretting your decision. The last thing anyone wants is for you to give a pet up to adoption or the pound because you realize too late you’ve gotten in over your head. So carefully weight the pros and cons of pet ownership before you bring a new little buddy home. But if you’ve decided that the time is right, follow these top five tips to help ease your transition into pet ownership.

First off, don’t skimp on the training. The first several months of your pet’s life are the most important when it comes to developing positive habits. If you’ve brought home a kitten or a puppy, you need to make sure they interact with other pets and a wide range of people right away. If you keep them too separate they could develop fears or aggressive behavior. So get them socializing as soon as they have all of their shots. And don’t skimp on the actual training either. Even if your new best friend is tiny and you don’t think they could hurt a fly, you could someday regret not training them to sit and stay on command.

You should also get your pet on the highest quality food you can reasonably afford. Not all pet foods are created equal, and those that are packed with grains instead of natural meats will impact your pet’s health. Becoming overweight is just as dangerous for pets as it is for people, so feed them based on your vet’s suggestion, and provide high quality, protein-heavy food. Your pet will live a longer, happier life and you’ll spend less time cleaning up accidents.

You also need to make exercise a priority for any pet you own. Dogs need regular, brisk walks and cats need things to climb and claw that won’t see you losing your apartment security deposit. Not only will that help them maintain a healthy weight, but it will also give your pet somewhere to funnel all of that energy they have. That means less destruction around the house, and peace between pet and owner.

While accidents will happen and you shouldn’t become a pet owner if you can’t handle the occasional chewed shoe or smelly deposit, you should take the time to prepare your home for the new arrival. That means making sure any cleaning products or other poisons are out of your pet’s reach, wires are all tucked snugly away, and anything that you absolutely cannot have clawed or chewed is shut up in a cabinet or a drawer. Remember, your pet doesn’t know any better. So if it is that meaningful to you, it is up to you to keep your pet away from it.

Finally, research the potential health issues of your pet breed, so you are prepared to recognize warning signs if they occur. This doesn’t mean you have to train as a vet, but you should runderstand what behavior is normal for your pet, and what could be a sign of a serious illness. Create a first aid kit for your pet, filled with pet supplies from or another trusted source, and have a game plan in place if your pet is bitten by a tick, or receives some sort of cut or burn. Have a good vet ready that comes recommended, as well as the number for a pet emergency room during the overnight hours. You never want these terrible things to happen of course, but preparation will keep you from panicking and allowing a bad situation to get worse.